A generic term applied broadly to any of various small, soft-boned, saltwater FISH such as SPRAT and young PILCHARD and HERRING. These tiny fish are iridescent and silvery and swim in huge schools, usually near the water's surface. Fresh sardines are available on a limited basis during the summer months, usually only along the coast where they're caught. In general, their fatty flesh is best when grilled, broiled or fried. In the United States, sardines are more commonly found salted, smoked or canned, either in oil, tomato sauce or mustard sauce.